St. John Chrysostom urged his congregation to bring Jesus different gifts than what the Magi brought.
While we spend a great deal of time thinking about the presents we will give to family and friends on Christmas Day, how often do we think of the gifts we will give to Jesus?
St. John Chrysostom, a holy bishop of the 4th century, gave a series of homilies on the birth of Jesus and explained to his congregation which gifts they should bring to Jesus on Christmas Day. At the time the celebration of Jesus’ birth was not widely celebrated, and so he explained in his homily a few of the reasons why they should attend Mass on that day.
Therefore I ask you on this day to leave your houses with zeal and alacrity, and to be here present, that we may together behold our Lord wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in the manger. For what excuse, what pardon can there be for us, if we will not so much as come from our houses to seek Him, who for our sakes descended from heaven.
The Magi, although they were strangers, hastened from Persia, that they might behold the Savior lying in the manger; and shall not we, who are Christians, endure to measure so short a distance for the enjoyment of this blessed sight? For if we approach with faith we shall surely behold him lying in a manger. His holy table will supply the place of a manger. For there will be spread the body of our Lord, not wrapped in swaddling clothes as then, but on all sides surrounded by his Holy Spirit. Approach then, and make the offering of thy gifts, not such as were presented by the Magi, but gifts infinitely more precious.
They brought gold; do thou bring temperance and virtue: they offered frankincense; do thou offer the prayer of a pure heart, which is spiritual frankincense: they presented myrrh ; do thou present humility, meekness, and charity. If thou draw near with these gifts, thou mayest with much confidence partake of the Holy Supper.
In context, Chrysostom was encouraging his congregation to bring these gifts when they approached the altar and received him in Holy Communion. That remains the perfect time to offer to Jesus our own Christmas presents.
As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, let us meditate on which gifts we can bring Jesus at Mass on Christmas Day and which virtues we can work on.
Jesus has no need of gold, frankincense and myrrh, but he does desire a pure and virtuous heart.